Merritt inducted into the William Carey Sports Hall of Fame

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

Several years ago, Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt was inducted into the William Carey University Alumni Hall of Fame. And on April 1, he was granted another honor, induction into the WCU Sports Hall of Fame, becoming the first Crusader to be inducted into both.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers for what you have put so much effort into,” Merritt said.

When Merritt suited up for the William Carey baseball team in 1975, under former coach John Stephenson, he accomplished many feats, elevating the program to what it is it today and set school records that have yet to be broken.

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In his senior year, Merritt led the team to a school record of 53 victories in 1978, including 28 consecutive wins, another record yet to be broken at the university. During his senior tour, the Crusaders captured the Southern States Athletic Conference title and advanced to the NAIA World Series. Merritt and his team beat larger baseball programs that year, including Mississippi State University and the University of South Alabama. Overall, Merritt led the Crusaders to 168 wins in his four years.

“I appreciated every second I played for William Carey and I thank the Lord and my family every day for helping me achieve my goals of playing sports and graduating from college,” he said.

Growing up, Merritt’s options to pursue higher education were not guaranteed. His family did not make enough money to put him and his two brothers through college without the assistance of scholarships.

“I didn’t have a car or a pocket full of money. I had a football, basketball and baseball lying in my yard. That’s what we did,” Merritt said. “My father always told us that athletics was our ticket to getting a college degree, and I took that to heart, making sure I committed myself to achieving my true goal of becoming a graduate.”

Merritt later graduated from William Carey University while juggling a couple years of basketball and four years of baseball.

Merritt’s advice to any student wishing to pursue a higher education, but lacks the finances to do so, is to never give up and always finish what was started. He added that the success of students is also partially due to the support of their parents or guardians.

“I know life is hectic right now, but I ask every parent to please invest in your kids. Go watch and support them in whatever they enjoy. It is important to them and it will be for you as well,” he said.

Merritt’s father worked the night shift while he was growing up. What Merritt didn’t realize is that his father worked such bizarre hours so that he wouldn’t miss a single game his son played.

“I will never forget the support my mother and father gave me in my quest to pursue athletics. They were always there for me and I think that is the reason why I accomplished so much in my baseball career. I wanted to make them proud,” he said.

The number one thing Merritt said he took away from athletics is commitment, trait that translated over to his success in the education system.